Drivers aghast at $4.15 a gallon
Average Valley Gas Prices
All-time high: $4.056 (July 15, 2008)
Last week: $3.848
Last month: $3.500
Six months ago: $2.757
Last year: $2.804
Source: AAA Fuel Price finder
By Karl Henkel
The $4-a-gallon gas threshold came and went quickly as fuel prices rose to as much as $4.15 a gallon Thursday for regular unleaded.
Many motorists, such as Marianne Vaughn, treasurer at Western Reserve Transit Authority, woke up to gas under $4 a gallon, but prices jumped nearly 25 cents starting around noon.
According to consumer-driven websites such as AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report and GasBuddy.com, Valley gas prices started Thursday around the $3.85-a-gallon mark and by midday, a handful of stations were well over $4.05 — most at $4.15.
The Youngstown average was $3.962 by late Thursday afternoon, 6 cents higher than it was two days ago.
“Wow,” Vaughn said. “Is this price gouging or what?”
Terry Fleming, executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council, said he had to fill up this afternoon in Columbus, and gas was $4.19, up from $3.99 earlier in the day.
He was perplexed as to why gas jumped so significantly, especially since crude-oil prices didn’t increase.
Crude oil was about $112 a barrel Thursday, flat-lining after hitting a 21/2-year high earlier in the week.
Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil & Gas Association, speculated the price will come down, but that U.S. shale drilling has kept prices lower than they should be.
There has been speculation about the immediate future of fuel prices, with such wild cards as the political unrest in Syria and Libya and the weak American dollar, and the fear is that a gallon of regular unleaded could cost $5 a gallon by Memorial Day.
Stewart said that’s a stretch, and Fleming said that a barrel of oil would need to cost $168 for regular unleaded gasoline to top $5.
He said that gas likely won’t get there because the crude-oil price fluctuates with demand, and he thinks gas eventually will reach a high enough price that many will cut back or cease driving.
The highest crude-oil cost to date was $147.27 in July 2008.
The economy also could impact fuel prices. The price of crude oil is measured in American dollars, so if the economy continues to improve, crude prices would climb.
“It’s good news, bad news,” he said.
Also in July 2008, the Youngstown-Warren area hit its record average, $4.056 a gallon, according to Bevi Powell, communications director for AAA East Central.